McGeechan set to miss out on Hong Kong Sevens

FORMER British Lions and Scotland coach Ian McGeechan is unlikely to be at next month's Hong Kong Sevens because of personal problems.

The widely respected coach was to co-manage the England-Wales invitational side, the President's Seven, at the March 26 and 27 event at the Hong Kong Stadium.

But McGeechan, who led Scotland to the 1990 Grand Slam, has informed Hong Kong organisers that the prospects of him attending look dim.

Stuart Leckie, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, said: ''He contacted me and said he didn't feel he would be available for the Hong Kong Sevens.'' England manager Geoff Cooke will take sole responsibility for the team, while Les Cusworth, who coached England's 1993 World Cup-winning side, remains as coach.

The Union decided to invite an England-Wales selection because they felt fans in Hong Kong would want to see the top players from those countries.

Wales and world champions England turned down invitations to send their national sides to the territory.

Cooke is busy with England's Five Nations campaign but said he was hoping to put together the strongest possible side for Hong Kong.

''Obviously we want to have a good side of Anglo-Welsh players but at the moment it is too early to tell who we will have,'' said Cooke.

''A lot will depend on availability as it clashes with the domestic competition in Britain.'' The draw for the 24-team Hong Kong Sevens tournament will be held on Thursday and the President's Seven could find themselves left out of the elite top eight seeded teams because of the quality of the line-up.

Defending champions Western Samoa, plus Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa should be guaranteed a place among the top eight, while France, Scotland, Canada, Argentina and the President's Seven fight it out for the other two places.

The top eight seeds are the teams expected to qualify for the main Cup competition at the Cathay Pacific and HongkongBank-sponsored tournament.

Before indicating his unavailability, McGeechan said he was seeking out some of the players who helped England to their World Cup Sevens triumph in Edinburgh.

Despite his absence, the President's Seven will not be short of quality direction in the form of Cooke and former England international Cusworth.

Cusworth has a fine sevens reputation and was part of the victorious 1981 Barbarians side - the only northern hemisphere team to win the Hong Kong Sevens in the tournament's history.

He has also represented the Irish Wolfhounds at the Hong Kong event.

Hong Kong Sevens line-up: American Eagles, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Fiji, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Kwang-Hua Taipei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, President's Seven, Romania, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Western Samoa.